Sunday, July 29, 2012

Searching for Carolina Satyr

There are three species of small Satyr butterflies that can be found at Blue Jay Barrens.  They all fly low to the ground and share the same brown background color, so it’s sometimes difficult to identify them in flight.  The most abundant of the three is the Little Wood Satyr.

Little Wood Satyrs fly during late spring and early summer.  They’re just now reaching the end of their run, so it’s not uncommon to find individuals with torn or ragged wings.

This species stays to the shade and seems to prefer open wooded situations that allow for a thick ground cover of forbs and grasses.  I find it from creek bottom to ridge top as long as the preferred shade conditions are present.

The second of the small Satyrs is the Gemmed Satyr.  This is an uncommon species whose northern range just makes it into southern Ohio.  If you can get close enough to see them, the four small eye spots tightly grouped at the back edge of the hind wing make identification easy.  I’ve found this species occasionally on ridge tops, but most often along the creek corridor.

All three small Satyrs spend the majority of their time in flight, so it’s hard to catch them at rest.  When they do set down on a plant, it’s usually just for a period of a few seconds.  If you can find one that has settled for a longer stay, it is easily spooked by any movement, so getting close can be difficult.  If you have the patience, you have better luck by staking out a likely area and waiting for a butterfly to come to you.

My goal for the day was to get a decent picture of the Carolina Satyr, the third of the small Satyrs.  This is also an uncommon species whose range just makes it into southern Ohio.  My first photographic attempt was less than satisfying, but at least I could tell I was after the correct species.

I usually got just one shot before the butterfly took off.  This is getting better, but I’ve still got a long way to go. 

I finally got a shot that did a pretty good job of showing the distinguishing marks. 

This Carolina Satyr flew over and lit right in front of me.  It’s my best shot of the day, but the upper wing surface is rather blah.  The surface of the wings looks worn and scratched, but that’s the way most published photos of this guy look.  The butterfly flew as soon as I began to crouch down for a side shot.  My search for Satyrs took place in the warm afternoon.  Maybe I’ll have better luck if I go out in the cool of the morning.  I’ll give that a try.

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